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General News

June 17, 2004

While the corporate world deals with the fact that hundreds of thousands of American jobs are being outsourced to companies overseas, now we find out that it is happening in churches too.

There is a bizarre and strangely hilarious article in the New York Times about the Catholic Church’s practice of outsourcing prayer and masses. With clergy in short supply in North America, some churches are sending requests for masses to places such as India where poor, less-busy priests can earn some extra money by performing the masses. In India “memorial and thanksgiving prayers conducted for local residents are said for a donation of 40 rupees (90 cents), whereas a prayer request from the United States typically comes with $5, the Indian priests say.” Some dioceses are receiving hundreds of requests every month. Here are a few quotes:

The requests are mostly routed to Kerala’s churches through the Vatican, the bishops or through religious bodies. Rarely, prayer requests come directly to individual priests.

While most requests are made via mail or personally through traveling clergymen, a significant number arrive via e-mail, a sign that technology is expediting this practice.

However, congregations in Kerala say the practice of ordering prayers is several decades old. “The church is not a business enterprise, and it is sad and pathetic to connect this practice to outsourcing software work to cheaper labor destinations,” said the Rev. Vincent Kundukulam of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary in Aluva, near Cochin. In Bangalore’s Dharmaram College, Rector James Narithookil said he often received requests for Mass intentions from abroad, which he distributed among the 50 priests in his seminary. Most of the requests from the United States were for requiems, with donations of $5 to $ 10, he said. Bishop Adayanthrath said sending Mass intentions overseas was a way for rich churches short on priests to share and support smaller churches in poorer parts of the world.

The Rev. Paul Thelakkat, a Cochin-based spokesman for the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, said, “The prayer is heartfelt, and every prayer is treated as the same whether it is paid for in dollars, euros or in rupees.”

I happen to know that people in North America pay more than $10 to have a mass said for a deceased relative or friend and I’m sure they pay more than that to have prayers said as well. So I wonder what percentage the local church takes as a “finders fee.” It seems to me they are probably taking 60 or 80% of the amount and than passing on just a fraction of it to the priest who is actually doing the work.

You know, in the Catholic system it doesn’t much matter who does a mass on behalf of your relative or who says a prayer for you. If priests are telling their parishoners that they will not be performing the mass themselves, I guess there really is no problem with “outsourcing” them. However, if they are allowing people to believe that a local member of the clergy, someone the parishoner knows and respects, will be doing the mass but then quietly shipping it off to India where it will be done by someone who can’t even pronounce your name, then that is just wrong.

Regardless, it shows what a bizarre system of beliefs the Catholic Church holds to that this sort of thing goes on. You can read the whole article here but will have to register before you can see it.

June 16, 2004

This phrase is one of my pet peeves. It is used with alarming frequency and I seem to hear it wherever I go these days.

The other day I read a quote where someone said “my own personal heart is breaking.”

I guess he really wanted to stress that he didn’t break anyone else’s heart. Not only was it his heart (not your heart), but it was also his own (make no mistake about it…it was NOT your heart - he owns this one) and it was his personal heart (it’s a private heart - not open for public viewing). Perhaps he just wanted to add clarity to the situation. Or, more likely, he just used an awful cliche.

This phrase is doubly redundant and repeats itself, saying the same thing again and again and over and over. My own personal opinion is that you just shouldn’t use it. So please don’t.

June 14, 2004

I just saw over on James White’s site that he and some other great speakers are going to be holding a conference in Toronto later this year (September 10, 11). The speakers will be:

  • James White - I read his blog every couple of days and greatly admire him as a theologian. Sometimes his sarcasm gets a bit out of hand, but I’m willing to overlook it because of his stand for truth!
  • Richard Ganz - Richard is a good family friend and I always enjoy listening to him speak. A while back we celebrated Lord’s Supper at his church in Ottawa and he recited some of the words in Hebrew (Rich is Jewish by birth) and it gave a really neat “authenticity” to the sacrament.
  • Stephen Beck - I’ve heard him preach a couple of times but don’t know all that much about him. I think my parents are quite fond of him, though.

So I’m excited! It should be a great conference. I’m particularly interested in hearing a Reformed perspective on witnessing to post-moderns (a seminar presented by Stephen Beck) as well as the seminar on Witnessing to Catholics presented by White.

If you’re in the Toronto area and want to attend, you can get the basic information here.

June 14, 2004

Here are some snippets of an interesting article I saw over at In The Faith.

At the St. James AME Church in East San Jose, Calif., young people worship by dancing — choreographed movements inspired by everything from ballet to the latest MTV videos.

It’s an alternative way of praying that helps bring kids into the faith, say church members. It’s also a national trend, said Karla Jenkins, co-coordinator of Christian Dance Fellowship USA, part of a network of thousands of Christian dance groups worldwide.

“Praise dancing is a ministry,” says 17-year-old Ariana Starks at a recent Saturday morning practice at St. James, where she shimmied her shoulders to vibrant gospel music. “Most young people go to church and find it boring. This is a way to attract people into the house of God who wouldn’t normally want to come.”

In recent years, dance clothing stores and mail-order catalogs have begun selling praise-dance garments and props. Praise-dance Web sites are popping up, churches are hosting praise-dance concerts and conferences, and dance studios are offering classes.

Dance worship, or dance ministry, involves prayer movement, sacred dance and liturgical dance. It has a wide range of interpretations depending on the church and the denomination.

“It’s a variety of 20 or 30 styles of dance from jazz to modern to tap, used for the purpose of glorifying God, evangelizing and ministering,” says Ruth Ann Mayer, who has written two books and launched her own Web site (www.christiandance.com) about praise dance. The difference between secular dance and praise dance, she says, is its intent.

“The Lord is using us through the art of dance to preach the word of God,” says Debra Crenshaw, founder of the Fremont-based Christian dance company Dance For His Glory. “It can be entertaining, and people can get enjoyment from it, like the purpose of secular dance. But that’s not our sole purpose.”

I find it difficult to accept dance as ministry. I see no solid Biblical basis for it (despite what this article says). I guess I just don’t see how “people can express prayer through movement when they can’t say it or sing it.” God doesn’t tell us to pray through movement. It seems to me this is just another way of taking the emphasis off the traditional church staples of preaching and prayer.

You can read the rest of the article here.

June 14, 2004

My taxes are due June 15. That means tomorrow. Care to guess what I am going to be doing tonight? Ah, the terrifyingly unsatisfying life of a procastinator!

June 13, 2004

It has been a while since I last updated my list of recommended links. Today I finally got around to deleting one that hasn’t been updated in a long time and I added two new ones. I try to keep my list short, so if it makes my list you know it’s worth reading! I don’t understand why people would list 50 or 100 sites on their blog…

The first addition is Matt Hall. Matt writes just about every day and has plenty of good observations to make on life and faith. I look forward to reading his site every day.

The other addition is Why I Am Really Here which is Shane’s blog. I noticed in his short bio that he and I have many similar interests, are about the same age and so on…so we have a lot in common. I try to drop by his site every day.

I removed one link as the author has decided he will not post on a regular basis any longer.

June 11, 2004

Anne Catherine Emmerich, who may just be nominated for a Grammy award for writing the screenplay for The Passion of the Christ is due to be beatified on October 3. This, of course, is a step on the road to canonization (ie being declared a saint). I wonder if she was ever considered for this “honor” before she became so popular on the heels of Gibson’s film. I am guessing the answer is “no.”

While we’re on the subject of the pope, it seems President Bush saw fit to award the pope the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The citation with the medal said “A devoted servant of God, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has championed the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the outcast. He has defended the unique dignity of every life, and the goodness of all life. … The United States honors this son of Poland who became the Bishop of Rome and a hero of our time.” President Bush presented the award “on behalf of the American people.” No word on whether we can expect to see the pope wearing the medal in public.

Fortunately, as a Canadian, the medal was not presented to him on my behalf.

June 10, 2004

A few weeks ago I completed a rather interesting Web site for my uncle, Ron Cowle. Ron is an artist, and a pretty good one at that! The site was unique in that he had a very clear vision of what he wanted it to look like and my job was really to take that vision and translate it to code. In the end he was very happy with the site as it really did come out just the way he wanted it. It is certainly different from what I would have done on my own, yet I still really like it. You can see it here.